Juventus v napoli

Napoli v Juventus: Match preview, scouting, and predictions


Napoli have finally managed to put together a complete game after yet another coaching change, but they’ll basically need to run the table, starting with the date with their archrivals, and hope other teams flounder to qualify for the Champions League.

  Serie A Week 27– Sunday 3 March  2024 – Stadio Diego Armando Maradona | Preview by Enrico Passarella


Francesco Calzona would have had a perfect start if it wasn’t for a late blunder by Juan Jesus in the Cagliari game, which paved the way for Zito Luvumbo’s late equalizer, and a few missed chances earlier in such a bout. The sample size is still small but, perhaps, at their third coach, they have found what they were looking for since their main intent was to try replicating Luciano Spalletti’s philosophy and approach.

In that sense, appointing Walter Mazzarri, who must be grinning his teeth seeing the performances of Victor Osimhen, whom he could never count on due to injury and AFCON, didn’t make any sense. Despite his proclamations of having evolved tactically and studied their previous stellar iteration, gaffers rarely abandon their roots and core beliefs, especially when things aren’t working, and he’s a very defensive-minded boss at heart. A mediocre one too, given the results of his last few spells. His familiarity with the president was the only justification for his hiring. Stylistically speaking, Rudi Garcia was a more logical choice, but he didn’t work out for reasons beyond schemes and whatnot.

Calzona didn’t need to do anything special but simply went back to 4-3-3 after some ill-advised forays into a three-man defense, which may have shored things up in a pair of matches but also destroyed an offense that wasn’t great to begin with in the process and added unnecessary confusion as far as the players’ tasks and hierarchies are concerned.

Despite his likely summer departure, there weren’t many doubts that Victor Osimhen would live up to the task once available. It wasn’t tough to outperform his replacements, who were underwhelming, although it’d be harsh to pin a lot of the blame on them since they were the most hurt by the fact that the whole team wasn’t functioning properly. Instead, the most welcomed development deriving from Sassuolo romp was Khvicha Kvaratskhelia looking like his best self, which has happened very intermittently this campaign and rarely ever when they needed it the most sans their star no.9. The increased attention drawn by his teammate will help him. He has too often been bottled up while being double or triple-teamed, occasionally losing his temper and focus.

It seems like in the first few months they struggled to recover mentally from the shock of not being able to mount a credible title defense. They need to get down the brass tacks now and zero in on their goal, which is simple. They have an eight-point deficit compared to Bologna, which is big but not insurmountable, and there are a bunch of teams in between, including a pair of quality ones. The Felsinei might relent at some point, but they are unlikely to nosedive since they have the advantage of not playing in the cups.

The Partenopei would be the best of the bunch if they played to their potential, but they still don’t have margin for error. Considering all the baggage of this hellish season, it’s tough to imagine they are real contenders for the Champions League even should they get past Barcelona, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. Fixtures of that caliber don’t need extra motivation, but Serie A getting a fifth team in the top continental competition also hinges on whether they advance or not, so they’ll have a lot at stake there. Needless to say, missing out on the top four (or five) would have massive economic ramifications and dent their prestige despite the recent Scudetto. It would be particularly damaging in a summer where they’ll undergo profound changes on and off the pitch.

Calzona wasn’t there during their title-winning campaign, but he appears on the same page with Spalletti on some principles and lineup choices. Despite his future exit, it’s complicated to Piotr Zielinski, even though he’s been far from great this campaign because they don’t have another player that has the same technique and playmaking and isn’t a turnstile in the passive phase. Hamed Traoré has had some flashes, but he’ll need time to turn into a proper box-to-box. They might not have the privilege of giving him it. Mario Rui is proficient offensively, but Mathias Olivera is more complete. Moreover, the displays and usage of Giacomo Raspadori are the barometer of how things are going. The new gaffer is leaning on him more than the previous ones even though the tactical fit is imperfect, and he has responded positively.

Given their objective and the pressure, they have no time to play coy, even though some monumental clashes would demand it at least initially, and must go balls to the wall in each tilt, but the danger of exposing their defense is always present in these situations.

Expected XI (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Ostigard, Rrahmani, Olivera; Anguissa, Lobotka, Zielinski; Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia. 

Doubts: Ostigard/Jesus, Olivera/Rui, Zielinski/Traoré.

Injury Report: Ngonge (thigh injury) – Questionable.
Cajuste (thigh muscular distraction) – OUT. 



Perhaps the dramatic win over Frosinone was the spark Juventus needed to reignite their season after a series of disappointments. Who could have guessed that that the gritty new-look Empoli led by Davide Nicola would be the ones to ruin their momentum and not the Inter clash, which ended in one of the most lopsided narrow result ever.

Despite their declarations, the ensuing faux-pas where they visibly lacked intensity, attention, and even flat-out motivation in winnable games testified that they did believe in the Scudetto, and why not since they had somehow managed to stay close. It’s a relatively young and new squad, and it took too long to regroup. They still need to land the Champions League plane. Qualifying for it isn’t much of an achievement given their history, but doing so comfortably and in the second place would look a lot better.

In the end, the gap with Inter might end up being so large that there won’t really be any regrets, nor should there be seeing how the Nerazzurri toy with opponents and dominate despite makeshift lineups while they are in big trouble whenever any starter is missing or in poor form. While there might not be a gulf in terms of high-end talent, there’s an ocean between their benches.

Their lack of depth will be exposed in this one as Adrien Rabiot and Weston McKennie are sidelined simultaneously. Any side would struggle without two cornerstones, but that’s even more the case for them as the backups are nowhere near as physical as the two starters. The most straightforward solution would be fielding Carlos Alcaraz, who has been okay but is a different type of player, and Fabio Miretti, who hasn’t had a good performance in ages, but such a midfield would be easily overrun by Napoli.

There’s not really a perfect solution, but it might be time to take Manuel Locatelli out of the deep-lying playmaker spot and at least exploit his dynamism as a box-to-box. It’s pretty clear that his passing and distribution aren’t good enough to allow him to pull the strings and dictate the rhythm, but the alternative will have to come from the transfer market. Hans Nicolussi Caviglia isn’t much more established than Miretti, but he might be less burdened mentally. The coach ruled it out, but it wouldn’t have been the worst idea to bring Danilo back to his old stomping grounds in the midfield. He’s available after an injury, but probably not fit enough to test something unusual, and he’s not a lock to start in the back either.

The most interesting idea might be using Andrea Cambiaso centrally, which he has done in the past and even recently without a hitch, and Timothy Weah on the right. The former Lille star has been disappointing so far, and his adaption has taken a lot longer than anticipated, and the lack of consistent minutes did him no favor there, but at least he has more experience in big stages.

Massimiliano Allegri’s lack of trust in youngsters or newcomers is a dated problem. To his credit, his slow introductions tend to work out, and his assessments about the value of the talent at his disposal tend to be correct, but it’s a highly frustrating process that occasionally hurts the team performances. They eventually changed their mind, but their initial aversion to signing a midfielder in January seems foolish now. They have some workhorses, but it was too optimistic to think nothing bad would happen for months.

The trident with Federico Chiesa and Kenan Yildiz, which would lead to a 3-4-2-1 in this case, hasn’t been deployed in much better situations, so it’s hard to imagine it’ll see the light of day in this one. In reality, even though pairing them up is very alluring, the two haven’t performed consistently at a high enough level to justify moving on from a scheme that has worked for 80 percent of the season.

Given the lack of muscularity, it wouldn’t be too shocking if the boss benched them both and went with Arkadiusz Milik next to Dusan Vlahovic. The return to prominence of the Serb has been a very welcomed and somewhat unexpected turn of events, at least at such stellar heights, as it’s not like they have produced much more than usual. He’s been bagging every chance, which isn’t very sustainable. It’d be nice if they could get two attackers going at the same time.

On the other hand, their backline has had a downturn in form, as they haven’t kept a clean sheet in five straight matches even though most were feasible. It’s not only the defender’s fault. If they want to be serious contenders next season, they’ll have to find a way to be on point on both ends at the same time, while their efficacy has alternated so far. But there’s a long way to go before that.

Expected XI (3-5-2): Szczesny; Gatti, Bremer, Rugani; Cambiaso, Alcaraz, Locatelli, Miretti, Kostic; Vlahovic, Yildiz. 

Doubts: Rugani/Danilo, Miretti/Weah, Yildiz/Chiesa. 

Injury Report: Danilo (ankle sprain), Chiesa (foot bruise) – Probable.
McKennie (shoulder sprain), Rabiot (toe dislocation), Perin (knee sprain), Kean (tibia injury), De Sciglio (ACL tear) – OUT. 

Suspensions: Fagioli, Pogba



Napoli Win – Over 2.5 Goals

Enrico Passarella

Contributor for @footitalia1 | Serie A | News, Transfers, Betting |